Great Entertaining Takes Party Online

For many people, first impressions of Great Entertaining’s mission didn’t exactly set off sparks of enthusiasm.

What is the sense of online party planning, anyway? Since a successful party depends predominantly on the erudition of the guests, the trick is to invite the right people, buy some food and let ‘er rip.

Such reactions are, to be kind, “gender specific.” And it goes a long way to explain why women are the target market for this site, which was launched in October. “In business or the home, women are often asked to pull together an event very quickly,” said Great Entertaining CEO Tanya Roberts. “This can be an incredibly stressful situation.”

Roberts said that the site will soon offer almost 140 different themes. You log on, pick a type of party, then gather the accessories. This can be as simple as plates, napkins and balloons, or get more specific and, accordingly, more expensive. Planners will see these accessories as a good investment, especially if they inject some life into the party. For instance, a “Shagadelic ’60s” party can be livened up with a mechanical voice changer.

“Our parties are meant to help plan for some of life’s more memorable events,” Roberts said. “A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into planning a party, and can run around for weeks to find the right items. So we put everything they need into a single location.”

While the service meets the needs of people who plan ahead, it will also support those who wait until the last minute. Because the company’s distribution center resides on an Airborne Express hub, “You can call us as late as midnight East Coast time and the party will be on your doorstep the next day,” Roberts explained.

The company closed its first round of funding, $4 million from Benchmark Capital, in May 1999 but took three months to make an announcement. The company announced the completion of a second round, for $31 million, on Nov. 2. The second round was led by Technology Crossover Ventures.

“We look for companies that not only have an Internet analog in bricks and mortar, but those who are in a category that can actually allow a company to be significantly larger than it would be in the brick and mortar world,” said Kevin Harvey, a general partner for Benchmark Capital. “There is a great demand for this kind of service, but no store can carry this selection.” He goes on to predict that online party planning has the potential to become a billion dollar business.

What’s next? Roberts said the company will expand into cakes, flowers, and other consumables. So all a planner will need to supply is the food and the people-and that will lower her stress level considerably.

Company Name: Great Entertaining, Inc.
Address: 2700 18th St., San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: 415-355-6300
Fax: 415-522-5541
Contact email address: [email protected]
Web address:
Employees: 50 (approximately)
Total Funding: $35 million
Investors: Benchmark Capital, Technology Crossover Ventures, Infinity Capital LLC and Attractor Investment Management Inc.

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